I really know how to pick ’em, let me tell you. It’s not just that I’m attracted to unavailable men who treat me badly and bored senseless by sweet men who think I’m wonderful …though there is that to ponder. No, perhaps the more remarkable thing to consider at this point in my fairly illustrious and increasingly public dating career is why I go back for more from the bad ones until, finally, I have those “This is insane” moments. Over and over I go back for all different kinds of bad and belittling until it’s out of control.
Why extend generosity just because he’s anatomically male and happens to have nice eyes? That’s how I think of it in the beginning, “We’ll just give him the benefit of the doubt on that one…” and “He didn’t really mean it that way…” and “… but I like other things about him.” What is that about? I heard Oprah say something great about this. She said, and this sounded genius to me despite its obviousness and simplicity, “Give people one chance to show you who they are…” Something like that. One chance. Treat me badly; we’re done. I can’t seem to do that.
Let me explain. There’s history here. I won’t post their photos. I am many things, but my mean streak isn’t as well-developed as you might think after those few posts about the Frenchman (who we’ll get to later), so the three or four photos that come immediately to mind will stay safely saved elsewhere on my computer.
This isn’t really about them, anyway. This is about outgrowing that pattern, learning something new, expecting more for myself and going out to get it.
Suffice it to say that this has been going on since my first college romance. I was 18, and he was the best-looking freshman at Hampshire College. I’ll never forget the first moment I saw him. It was in Brown Kennedy’s Seven Southern Writers class. I was sitting in the far corner of the room with my head wedged in the angle where the walls met. He walked in and I remember, 16 years later now, sitting up and thinking, “Maybe I’ll stay here after all.” A Southern California beach breeze might as well have blown in after hi
For months I was so excited that the best-looking new boy on campus liked me, that I didn’t even pause to wonder if I was getting what I wanted out of the whole thing. Come to think of it, that was probably enough — that the best-looking new boy on the whole damned campus wanted me. At first. It turned bad later with him, and I just wanted to help. To fix. To take it away or make it better. And he did scary things I won’t describe here because my Mother and Grandmother may be reading.
The “This is insane” moment with him? There were two little ones that are safe to share here:
1. One evening we were walking through a parking lot to his car. This was probably at least a year in. He told me not to shuffle my feet, not to walk the way I was walking. I still think about that moment when I find myself making the noise my feet made that humid Massachusetts evening and I still think, “This is insane.”
2. The second was right before he left: We were sitting on the floor with our backs against the sofa, eating pizza. He became enraged and threw pizza. I don’t even remember it all happening, but I remember that at one point he actually said that I should not inhale when I ate. He said he didn’t want me to breathe.
But it’s 2006 now. He has a wife and a baby girl and I have an ex-husband with a domestic violence charge against him (expunged from his record as if none of it ever happened). I’m alone in Lugano, Switzerland writing this. How to break the pattern?
I bring this all up because I received a remarkable (though I’m not sure what the remarks would be) e-mail last night from a man over whom I’ve been pining. You know the one. He suggested that I wear my clothes differently. It was actually posed as a very nice, friendly request out of “genuine” concern for me. He asked me to never tuck sweaters in because it doesn’t look good and sweaters aren’t to be tucked in. He used examples of outfits I’ve worn recently and a sweet tone. He even said he was telling me this because he cared.
Damn him. I actually stood in front of my closet this morning thinking about it. I am mad, but it isn’t about him. I am disgusted and recognize that it’s not about me, either, his crazy stuff.
At least now I can see that I find these men who are running these scripts in their heads. I see that his was there before me and will be there long after and I am not playing that role in this script. I see that I was chasing, drawn to it like a drug… and that’s just me running my script. Me and the bad men. What to do?
Change up the script. I’m going skiing this three-day weekend with people who think I am absolutely fabulous just the way I am!